Funding For Landowners

The majority of cost share and technical assistance funds available for conservation come from the Farm Bill.  Farm Bill programs must be re-authorized in each new Farm Bill, roughly every five years and funds are appropriated in each biennial budget.  Consequently, programs may be authorized but funding levels may differ significantly from authorized levels.  In some cases, federal programs are authorized that are never funded.  Given this, the information provided below is based on the 2002 Farm Bill and is constantly changing.  To get the most up-to-date information, go to the agency website or talk to local agency staff.


Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). 

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. Persons engaged in livestock or agricultural production on eligible land may participate in the EQIP program. Promotes environmental quality and agricultural production as compatible national goals. EQIP activities are carried out according to a plan of operations developed in conjunction with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or practices to address the resource concerns. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions. EQIP offers contracts with a minimum term that ends one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practices and a maximum term of ten years. These contracts provide incentive payments and cost-shares to implement conservation practices. EQIP may cost-share up to 75% of the costs of certain conservation practices. Incentive payments may be provided for up to three years to encourage producers to carry out management practices they may not otherwise use without the incentive. However, limited resource producers may be eligible for cost-shares up to 90%. Farmers and ranchers may elect to use a certified third-party provider for technical assistance. Forestry practices for EQIP in Arkansas are cost-shared to address forest protection, health, and water quality concerns.  These include firebreak construction, prescribed burning, tree planting, forest stand improvement, access road components, and others.  Cost share practices should not begin until after the contract is signed.


Conservation Security Program (CSP).

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

CSP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to producers who advance the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes on private working lands. Such lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pasture, and range land as well as forested land and other non-cropped areas that are an incidental part of the agriculture operation. NRCS annually selects priority watersheds where the CSP program is targeted. Farmers who are meeting the highest standards of conservation and environmental management are identified and rewarded.  In addition, powerful incentives will be offered to other producers who meet those same standards. Annual rental payments based on length of agreement. Up to 75% cost share. Three-tiered approach to payments: Tier I -  UP TO $20K, 1 natural resource concern on part of farm, 5 year agreement; Tier II – UP TO $35K, 1 natural resource concern on all of farm, 5-10 year agreements; Tier III – UP TO $45K, Treat all natural resource concerns on the entire agricultural operation, 5-10 year agreements.


Forest Land Enhancement Program (FLEP)

Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC)

The Forest Land Enhancement Program is part of Title VIII of the 2002 Farm Bill.  It replaced the Stewardship Incentives Program and the Forestry Incentives Program.  Forest Land Enhancement Program is optional in each state and voluntary for non-industrial private forest landowners.  It provides technical, educational, and cost-share assistance to forest landowners to promote sustainability of forests.  A variety of forest management, wildlife, and recreational practices are included for cost-share. Funding reallocated since 2003 to paying costs for fighting forest fires in the west. Non-industrial private forestlands of 10 to 1500 acres, 10+ year agreements, up to 75% cost-share. Limited 60-day sign up after money is released, first come, first served.


Forest Management Incentives

Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC)

AFC helps landowners apply for federal cost-share assistance for improving management of their forestland, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and other related programs administered by USDA NRCS and Farm Service Agency (FSA).


Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). 

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

A voluntary program that provides incentives to landowners to restore, protect or enhance the functions of wetland ecosystems. Under the Wetlands Reserve Program, landowners are provided cost-share funds and/or land payments to restore wetlands.  Eligible for inclusion in the Wetlands Reserve Program are wetlands farmed under natural conditions, farmed wetlands, farmed wetlands pasture and wetlands converted to cropland prior to December 23, 1985. Lands enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program must contain a substantial amount of restorable wetland. Limited areas of natural wetland, plus non-wetland areas needed to buffer the wetland from disturbance or to establish reasonable field boundaries, may be included. Provides 50% to 100% of restoration cost. Pays appraised value up to $700 per acre for permanent easement. 10- or 30-year agreements.


Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI). 

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

This program provides technical and educational assistance to owners of private grazing lands to improve management. The program is not a cost share program. The Arkansas Grazing Lands Advisory Committee provides oversight and the Cooperative Extension Service and NRCS carry out the program.


Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

A voluntary program that provides cost-share to implement practices that improve habitat for game and non-game species. NRCS and AGFC private lands and fisheries biologists work with the applicant to evaluate and prioritize habitat needs and identify management practices as part of Wildlife Habitat Development Plan. In addition, if the landowner agreesAll private lands eligible, unless enrolled in CRP, WRP, or similar program. 75% cost-share. 5 to 15 year agreements.

Cooperating agencies and nonprofit or private organizations provide expertise or additional funding to help complete a project to address high priority needs.  Currently, AGFC and private partners provide enhanced cost share in three focal areas. The attached maps show the boundaries of these focal areas:
• Elk focal area (Newton County)
• Quail focal area (Marion, Baxter & Independence County)
• Damascus quail focal area (Northern Faulkner County)


Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA)

A voluntary program for agricultural landowners. Through CRP, producers can receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland. CRP is administered by the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) through FSA. Program support is provided by NRCS, Cooperative Extension Service, state forestry agencies, and local conservation districts. The Conservation Reserve Program encourages farmers to enroll highly erodible cropland and/or land contributing to a serious water quality problem into the reserve for 10-15 years. The Conservation Reserve Program assists private landowners to reduce soil erosion, protect the nation’s ability to produce food and fiber, reduce sedimentation in streams and lakes, improve water quality, establish wildlife habitat, and enhance forest and wetland resources. It encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as introduced or native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filter strips, field borders or riparian buffers.  Farmers receive an annual rental payment for the term of the multi-year contract. Cost sharing is provided to establish the vegetative cover practices. 75% cost-share for restoring wetlands, 50% cost-share for restoring other habitats.

Conservation Reserve Program Continuous Sign-Up.  US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA)
Unlike the regular Conservation Reserve Program with sign-up deadlines, producers can apply for Continuous CRP at any time.  Environmentally desirable land devoted to certain conservation practices may be enrolled. Offers are automatically accepted provided the land and producer meet certain eligibility requirements and are not subject to competitive bidding. Continuous sign-up contracts are for 10 to 15 years.  Farm Service Agency provides participants with rental payments, cost share assistance, practice incentive payment, sign-up incentive payment, and other financial incentives based on eligibility. Applies to both row-crop and marginal pasturelands. Two separate rental rates: Flat rate for pasturelands, based on soil type for croplands. Farmed 4 out of last 6 years.


Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). 

US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA)

FSA and the state of Arkansas launched a $10 million CREP program to improve water quality of the Bayou Meto watershed and wildlife habitat in five central Arkansas counties in 2001. Producers enrolled in CREP remove lands from agricultural production and plant native grasses, trees, and other vegetation to improve water quality, soil and wildlife habitat under voluntary 10-15 year contracts. The Arkansas CREP will target 4,700 acres to establish tree buffers around streams and rivers in the Bayou Meto watershed.


Examples of Cost Share Offered By Other Agencies and Organizations

Partners for Fish and Wildlife

US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

This program provides financial and technical assistance to restore, improve and protect fish and wildlife habitat on private lands through partnerships with private landowners and other organizations while leaving the land in private ownership. Private landowners obtain: Water control structures at no cost other than installation and initial pick up; In the past, fence materials to protect streams from cattle at a cost of $300 per quarter mile.


Arkansas Partners Project

Cooperatively-funded effort among Ducks Unlimited, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service

Water control structures are provided to private landowners with waterfowl habitat who sign 15-year management agreement.  These steel drain pipes fitted with flash-board water control structure risers improve farmers irrigation management during crop production and harvest, reduce soil erosion and provide winter waterfowl habitat.


Examples of Conservation Easements/Land Acquisitions

Forest Legacy Program (FLP)

Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC)

Uses conservation easements and fee-simple acquisitions to protect environmentally important privately-owned forest areas that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses.


Wildlife Management Land Acquisition

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission also has an active land acquisition effort that may be of interest to willing sellers of lands near or adjacent to existing Wildlife Management Areas.


Emergency Watershed Protection-Floodplain Easement Program

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

The goal is to reduce the recurring cost of flood damage in areas prone to flooding while restoring or protecting fish and wildlife habitat, especially wetland habitat. The program will accomplish this goal by acquiring perpetual easements from interested landowners and, where necessary, restoring the hydrology and vegetation of the floodplain. NRCS has designated the following rivers or watersheds as priority areas in Arkansas in order to maximize environmental benefits: L’Anguille River and Departee Creek Watersheds, Bayou Bartholomew, St. Francis River/Little River Floodway and Mississippi River, White River, Black River and Buffalo River. L’ Anguille, Bayou Bart, and the Upper White River watersheds are priorities for the 2006-2010 NPS Management Program.


Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

A voluntary program that offers landowners easements, long-term rental agreements or restoration agreements to protect, restore and enhance grasslands, including grassland, rangeland, pastureland, shrubland and certain other lands, or land historically containing these features. The program is jointly administered by NRCS, FSA and U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The program will conserve vulnerable grasslands from conversion to cropland or other uses and conserve valuable grasslands by helping maintain viable ranching operations. Minimum of 40 contiguous acres. 10, 15, 20, or 30 years, or permanent agreements. Annual payment based on length of agreement. Up to 90% cost-share.


Wetland Mitigation Bank Program.

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission  (ANRC)

The Arkansas Wetland Mitigation Bank Program is a state-sponsored initiative to re-establish wetland hydrology and vegetation with compensatory funds from Section 404 permit recipients for impacts of approved wetland projects in selected areas that meet program criteria. Within these areas, site selection takes into consideration current and potential contributions to ground-water quality and other factors.


Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Land Acquisition.

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission

The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission acquires fee or easement in land that has rare species, exemplary natural communities or contributes significantly to functioning of ecosystems - both wetlands and uplands. Examples of wetland acquisitions: Bayou Dorcheat (Falcon Bottoms Natural Area), Cache River (Black Swamp Natural Area easement on AGFC WMA). Acquisition is from willing sellers only. Areas to be acquired must have been identified as high priority through agency inventory.


Wetland Easement Program.

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission

The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission implements a program to buy easements on wetlands particularly in the Cache River and Bayou DeView watersheds. The program can be extended to other areas.  The Wetland Easement Program is directed at protecting broader wetland values and integrity of wetland systems.  To do so, limitations on use are minimized - the basic requirement is to maintain wetland vegetation and hydrology. Wetland does NOT need to have rare species or exemplary natural communities to be considered. Few demands are placed on landowner and thus cost of easement is relatively low.


Conservation Easements.

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy offers a variety of conservation arrangements including management agreements, acquisition (including partial interests and fee title), land exchanges, conservation easements, retained life estates (donate home or farm for tax benefits while retaining lifetime use), bargain sales, donations, technical assistance for identification and management of natural resources through information transfers and site visits, and restoration and enhancement of bottomland hardwoods.


Conservation Easement Program. 

Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited’s Conservation Easement Program can meet the needs of interested owners of hunting clubs, farms, ranches, timberlands and other natural areas who wish to protect valuable natural wetlands while retaining ownership of the property. A perpetual conservation easement allows a landowner to protect key natural habitats of a property while continuing to use the area for economic gain or recreation. Easement will limit future development value of property. Donated easement may result in reduction of current and estate taxes in addition to permanently protecting the wetlands and other natural features on property. Internal Revenue Service allowance to deduct value of an easement up to 30% of adjusted gross income as a donation which may be spread over five years.


Loans/Debt Relief/Tax Incentives

Nonpoint Source Pollution Loans.

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC)

ANRC provides low-interest loans to agricultural producers for installing best management practices for reducing nonpoint source pollution.


Debt for Nature Program

US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Persons with Farm Service Agency loans secured by real estate may qualify for cancellation of a portion of their Farm Service Agency in arrears in exchange for a conservation contract. A conservation contract is a voluntary legal agreement to restrict the type and amount of development that may take place on portions of a landowner’s property. Contracts may be established on marginal cropland and other environmentally sensitive lands for conservation, recreation and wildlife purposes. All details of the contract are worked out and explained to an interested borrower before he or she chooses to enter the contract agreement. 


Arkansas Private Wetland and Riparian Zone Creation & Restoration Incentives Act

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC)

Any taxpayer whose project restores or enhances riparian zones and wetlands can receive a tax credit for a maximum of $5,000 per year for 10 years ($50,000 maximum per project).  Private Lands Restoration Committee reviews proposals.  Professionals who possess expertise in restoration and implementation efforts should complete the project plans.


Water Conservation Tax Credits. 

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC)

The purpose of this tax credit program is to encourage water users to invest in (1) the construction of impoundments to use available surface water, thereby reducing their dependence on ground water; (2) the conversion from ground water use to surface water use; and (3) land leveling to reduce agricultural irrigation water use. Tax credits may pass through partnerships, corporations, etc.   

Impoundments.  For the construction of impoundments of at least 20 acre-feet, an income tax credit of 50% of the project cost incurred in construction, installation, or restoration is available. The impoundments must be used for the storage of water to be used primarily for agricultural irrigation. The maximum credit in one taxable year is the lesser of the taxpayer's income tax due or $9,000. Unused credit may be carried over for a maximum of nine years.

Conversion.  For the conversion from ground water use to surface water use outside a critical groundwater area, an income tax credit of ten percent of the project cost is available. The maximum credit in one year is the lesser of the taxpayer's income tax due or $9,000. Unused credit may be carried over for 2 years.  For the conversion from ground water use to surface water use within a critical groundwater area, an income tax credit of 50 percent of the project cost is available. The maximum credit in one year is the lesser of the taxpayer's income tax due or $9,000 for agricultural and recreational uses and $200,000 for industrial and commercial uses. Unused credit may be carried over for a maximum of 2 years by agricultural and recreational users and for 4 years for industrial and commercial users.

Leveling.  For agricultural land leveling projects that conserve irrigation water, an income tax credit of 10 percent of the project cost is available. The maximum credit in one year is the lesser of the taxpayer's income tax due or $9,000. Unused credit may be carried over for a maximum of 2 years.

An application must be approved by your county conservation district, then submitted to the Commission and approved before a taxpayer may begin construction of a project and claim credits. All projects must be maintained for a minimum of 10 years following issuance of the Certificate of Completion, or benefits will be subject to recapture. An application fee of three percent of the total approved tax credit must be paid, and there is a minimum fee of $100 and a maximum fee of $1,500.
Taxpayers may be eligible for a tax deduction in an amount equal to the difference between the project cost and the credit used.

Carbon Offset Credits?

Additional Resources: Websites

Federal Grants
Search for federal government grants for individuals, landowner associations, sustainable communities, etc.  Compiles grant opportunities from multiple federal government agencies.  Sign-up for e-mail announcements when “requests for proposals” are issued for a grant or granting area of particular interest.

Farm Bill
More detailed information on farm bill conservation programs on the web at: